The say you only get one chance at a first impression. So it’s no wonder that many writers report that the first sentence is the hardest to write. A good opening line can set the tone for the whole book and quite often when considering buying a book, I’ll check out the first line. Here is my top 10 list of authors who nailed it!
And before anyone asks, I did omit “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. I just can’t un-hear “it was the best of times…it was the BLURST of times!”-Sorry Mr. Dickens.
On with the show!
10. Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
9. Charlottes’ Web (E.B. White)
“‘Where’s Papa going with that axe?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.”
Note: I love Charlottes’ Web, it’s one of my favorites, but what do you think the chances are that a book with an opening line about slaughtering a pig would make it into the hands of a 4-year-old today? Now all kids get are books are sharing and pooping and how everyone does both. Mollycoddling!
8. 1984 (George Orwell)
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
7. The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)
“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”
6. A Series of Unfortunate Events-#1 A Bad Beginning (Lemony Snicket)
“If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book.”
5. Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenides)
“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.”
4. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”
3. Matilda (Roald Dahl)
“It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.”
2. The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.”
1. Pride and prejudice (Jane Austin):
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
As true today as it ever was 😉